Aaron Pirner and his family are legends in the flooring industry. Both he and his father LaVone, are owners of CAP Carpet Inc. in Wichita, KS. They have been influential helping to move the industry forward through their ongoing association with the World Floorcovering Association. It’s one thing to spur the growth of your own business; it’s another to pledge yourself to the entire industry.
LaVone Pirner opened his first 4,000 square foot store in Wichita in 1967. Since then CAP Carpet has grown to seven brands and more than 50 million in business.
Aaron is a legend, and it’s hard to write about legends but there’s something very different about how Aaron speaks about our industry and his commitment. After reading an article in a trade publication, I decided to give him a call.
One of the things that fascinated me about Aaron was his interest in learning and in serving the flooring industry. Despite the fact, he grew up in family-owned business; Aaron went on to pursue an MBA. Growing up in a successful family business already puts you in the driver’s seat. So why would Aaron spend all that time in college? It’s because Aaron is always looking for new ways to serve his customers and to transform his business. Those two things alone would make Aaron a leader in any industry.
Here are some of the highlights of my conversation with Aaron.
Aaron grew up in the flooring business and apparently had always planned on going into the business; guess you could say, “Flooring is in his blood.” However, it takes more than this to make a business prosper.
I asked Aaron why his business has been so successful, his answer, “People matter.” It’s not only the customer, but it’s the people, who work for us and have created our business, says Aaron. If you start with that premise, you will treat everyone “the right way.” When this is your philosophy, you are starting with a successful attitude.”
In 2013, the CAP Senior Leadership Team developed a new concept called the Floor Project. The Floor Project consisted of two pilot stores devoted to making it easier for the consumer to get the right flooring.
“We reached out to our customer and asked them what we could do to help make the shopping experience more directed and the process less confusing. They told us what to do, and we decided to do it. Success is getting the right people involved to help provide direction and keep you on the path. That involves our customers and our talented staff.”
The voice of the customer is critical but how many stores actually talk to the customer before they develop a product? My dad told me without a customer your product was worthless. To this day, he appears to be correct. However, store owners get so overwhelmed with their “good ideas” they forget to involve the customer in the process. According to the CAP philosophy, the customer comes first.
Aaron says there are five elements that if put into place would make it easier for the customer. Simply put, the consumer must know how much flooring they will need, when they can get it, what will it cost, how will it look and is it right for their “life stage.” Products are shown on-line in various room settings with larger carpet samples in the showroom.
The Floor Project caters to the “middle range” price point where there are more customers. If the products are right, a lower priced customer is likely to spend some extra money to get what they want, and the “middle range” customer will be quite comfortable and not be intimidated. It’s what we call a “win-win.”
Stores talk about “value added” and usually focus on products. These days finding products are not the issue. There are more than enough products; the problem is finding a way to determine the “right” product without spending hours in the process. It takes a concept like the Floor Project to decipher the problem and narrow down the consumer’s choices.
As Aaron points out with the concept of the Floor Project, real value added has moved from products to the consumer. It will be interesting to follow the Floor Project as it continues to evolve The products are available on smart phones and have QR codes that take the consumer to his web site.
I would say that Aaron is not only on the right track for the consumer, but for the entire industry.
Lisbeth is the Associate Publisher of Fabulous Floors Magazine as well as a business consultant. She helps businesses build loyal customers through improving customer retention management and the customer engagement. To have her speak at your store, reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com. Her book, Red Hot Customer Service, a primer for customer relationships can be ordered from Amazon.